Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Horrible Bosses 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Release Date:
November 26, 2104

 

The Giver
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Release Date:
November 26, 2014

 

The Expendables 3
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language
Release Date:
August 15, 2014

Little Hope Was Arson
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Not Rated
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

The Gift

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2000

Cate Blanchett plays Annie Wilson, a widow from rural Georgia who has the gift of second sight. She supports her three sons by doing readings with cards, so she hears a lot of problems and secrets. Her clients include Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank), a battered wife and Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi), a troubled garage mechanic.

The local belle, Jessica King (Katie Holmes), disappears, and her father, her fiancé, and the police come to Annie to ask if she can help them find her. Annie sees nothing at first, but later she is able to lead them to a pond on the property of Valerie’s abusive husband, Donnie (Keanu Reeves). Annie’s testimony helps to convict Donnie, but then she begins to get visions that lead her to believe that Donnie was not the killer.

Director Sam Raimi is a master of horror and suspense. He knows how to make the bayou trees hang down ominously and the heavy mist and mournful violins prickle the hairs on the back of your neck. This is one of those movies where someone hears a funny noise inside the house and goes in to investigate, where someone agrees to go to a deserted pond on a rainy night, where a child asks, “Is everything going to be all right now?” and is reassured that it is, despite the fact that there is still about half an hour to go in the movie and it’s pretty clear that it isn’t going to be spent showing how relieved and happy everyone is to have it all over.

The plot is a little predictable, but first-class atmosphere and performances make it a superior entry in the horror genre. Cate Blanchett is quietly moving and completely convincing as a woman who is at times more at home with her second sight than with her first. Giovanni Ribisi gives great depth and humanity to the part of the troubled mechanic who sees Annie as his only friend. Keanu Reeves struggles to appear menacing, but manages to do better when he has to testify in the murder case. Katie Holmes shows her ability to create a complete character with the toss of her hair as the glossy Veronica to Annie’s Betty.

Parents should know that the movie is very scary, with a lot of tense moments, characters in peril, jump-out-at-you surprises and fake-out twists and turns. There is a nude dead body, a battered wife, an an inexplicit scene of characters having sex, and a reference to child sexual abuse. A character is doused with gasoline and then lit. The movie has very strong language, including a racist and anti-Semitic comment.

Families who see the movie should talk about why people go to see Annie. It seems that they care more about being listened to and heard than about hearing what she has to say. Why are Valerie and Buddy unable to help themselves? What are their options? Annie faces a moral dilemma when she realizes that Donnie is not the murderer. How does she handle it? Should she have warned Jessica about what she saw with her ESP? Should she have warned Wayne about what she saw at the country club? Annie tells others that they should face up to their problems, yet she has a hard time talking to her children about her late husband. How does that change?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Sixth Sense” and “Don’t Look Now.”

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Movie Release Date:2000

First things first — it is better than the original, famously troubled 1994 version that sank under the weight of too many screenwriters (reportedly over 30) and too many commercial tie-ins. This prequel benefits from lower expectations (it was originally intended as a straight-to-video release) and improved technology (the CGI dinosaurs are terrific). Okay, it begins with a fart joke (the guilty party — a dinosaur — says, “Hey, I got three stomachs, cut me some slack!”). And the rest of the humor is only slightly more elevated. And some of its jokes are older than the Stone Age. But it is not too bad, there are even a couple of genuinely funny moments, and it can provide for a moderately enjoyable family outing or a first-class birthday party for anyone in the 5-8-year-old range. The kids at the screening I attended cheered and applauded.

Mark Addy (from “The Full Monty”) and Stephen Baldwin (from “The Usual Suspects”) play Fred and Barney as though they are really enjoying it. The wonderfully talented Kristen Johnston (“Third Rock from the Sun”) is sadly underused as Wilma, but she looks sensational in her “Isaac Miz- rock-hi” animal skins. Wilma is the pampered daughter of the snobbish Pearl Slaghoople (Joan Collins in sort of prehistoric “Dynasty” mode) and the loving but addled Colonel (Harvey Korman). She has no interest in a life of country clubs and snobs. She runs away and is befriended by waitress Betty O’Shale (Jane Krakowski of “Ally McBeal”). They meet Fred and Barney and all goes well until Chip Rockefeller (“Dharma & Greg’s” Thomas Gibson), who is after Wilma’s fortune, invites them to his new resort in Rock Vegas. But all ends well, and we even get to see the origins of Wilma’s upswept hairstyle and pearls.

The highlight of the movie is Alan Cummings. He plays both Gazoo, the space alien who comes to earth to observe human mating rituals, and Mick Jagged, the (what else) rock star, frontman for (what else) the Stones. It’s a real pity that he plays only two roles – the movie fades whenever he is off screen. In the soundtrack’s highlight, Ann-Margret simultaneously salutes two of her career highlights — the original Flintstones cartoon (as “Ann Margrock”) and “Viva Las Vegas” with a terrific rendition of “Viva Rock Vegas.”

Parents should know that there are a few naughty words and mild sexual references (one afternoon Betty tells Barney that she wants to come back to his apartment and make him breakfast, and he wonders what she wants to do until morning), and some pie-in-the-face/pratfall cartoon violence.

Families who see this movie should discuss why Wilma feels unsatisfied despite her wealth, why Fred feels that he has to make a lot of money to compete with Chip, and how Betty and Barney create trouble by jumping to conclusions instead of telling each other about what worries them. Parents will also want to talk about Betty’s decision to go off with Mick when she thinks Barney has been unfaithful. Whether it is out of spite or a way to bolster her spirits, it is a foolish response.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the old Flintstones and Jetsons cartoons, and may even get a kick out of looking for the similarities between them.

The Filth and the Fury

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2000

More than 20 years ago, the Sex Pistols made one album, were let go by two record companies, one after only one day, and had the number one song in the UK, though it was so controversial it could not be played on the radio or even named on the published top 40 list. They were prouder of the blank space on the top of the charts than they would have been to see their names there.

Twenty years ago, director Julien Temple made “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle,” a documentary about the Sex Pistols from the point of view of their manager, Malcolm McLaren, who was presented as a Svengali who conceived and marketed the group. He said that they were the clay and he was the sculptor. Now, Temple returns with another take on the same story, as the surviving Sex Pistols tell their side.

According to the band members, McLaren was incompetent and corrupt. He played no part in creating the band; all he did was market them badly and take all their money. Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) talks about their origins as furious and iconoclastic working-class boys who wanted to make people think about what was going on all around them – and about what was not going on. When the Sex Pistols got together, the economy in England was stagnant. Garbage strikes led to streets piled with trash for months, job losses led to thousands being on welfare, and cuts in services left people feeling helpless. The Sex Pistols wanted them to feel angry. For a brief time, they served the role of the fictional character in “Network” who urged people to go to their windows and scream, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” They said their music was “almost a battle cry.” They wanted the working class to question the system, and to fight back.

They pierced their skin with safety pins and wore shredded clothes. “Wear the garbage! At least you’re dealing with it!” They did everything they could to offend and enjoyed the horrified reactions. But there were a few things that they were not at all prepared to deal with.

The first was McLaren. The Sex Pistols were not the kind of rock and roll band who trash the establishment on stage but act like the establishment off-stage. They never gave any thought to money or made any plans. They trusted McLaren, who is portrayed in this movie wearing a bondage mask of the kind he used to sell when he first met the members of the Sex Pistols in his store. Or perhaps it is more likely to say that they did not pay much attention to him. He gave them a few pounds a week spending money, and the rest is gone. The Sex Pistols faced all of the problems of any young, uneducated, unsophisticated kids who become famous very quickly, but to make it worse they got the fame without the fortune.

They were also not prepared for the problems that face all people who rise to fame on shock value. There is inevitably a Catch-22 dilemma. First, audiences get over shock very quickly, and as soon as the act is popular it immediately becomes no longer shocking, but normal. One day, punks are appalling everyone by sticking safety pins in their ears and wearing shredded clothes and the next day some enterprising soul is selling special piercing safety pins and pre-shredded clothes. The fans pay tribute to role-shattering rock stars by imitating them, and suddenly they are the new role model instead of the one rebelling against role models. The alternative is for the fans to compete by trying to be even more outrageous. So the fans spit on the band members and slash them with razors.

Even in the world of rock and roll, which has always relied on challenging the accepted and rebelling against authority, the Sex Pistols were so shocking that no one would record them or book them. One of their tours was called SPOT (“Sex Pistols on Tour”) so that the authorities would not know who was booked. When they put a sign on their tour bus that said “Nowhere,” they did not know it would literally be true.

One of the things they rebelled against was the notion of competence. When one member was told he had to learn to sing, he said, “Why?” You can rebel against the whole oppressive notion of success being tied to talent, but it is difficult to get anyone to buy your records. Another problem was that they were a lot better at knowing what they didn’t like than what they did like. The shelf life of anyone who criticizes without presenting an alternative is even briefer than the shelf life of someone who markets offensiveness. The most poignant moment in the movie is when they perform at a benefit for the children of striking fire fighters. The band has come together musically and at last they are about something that is meaningful to them. But it is too late.

By then, they were on an irreversible downward spiral. Lydon says, “Yes, I could take on England, but I couldn’t take on one heroin addict.” When Sid Vicious becomes involved with Nancy Spungen and with heroin, that is the beginning of the end. Today, speaking in shadows, Lydon breaks down in tears when he talks about how he could not save his friend.

Temple, who was around when the band was together, clearly has the trust of the surviving members. He shoots them in shadows, so our visual image of them is not diluted by signs of aging. We see their present-day recollections over footage of themselves more than two decades ago. Temple skillfully intercuts scenes from music hall performers, Laurence Olivier’s “Richard III” and “Hamlet,” contemporary commentators, and “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle” to provide a sense of context and contrast. There are some fascinating details about the band members. Lydon had meningitis as a child, and lost his memory. It may have been his having to learn everything again that led to his insistence that everyone question their assumptions. And Sid Vicious was not from a lower-class family. He was the son of a prestigious Grenadier guard, which must have made for some interesting conversation at home when their controversial salute to the Queen was banned from the charts.

The Sex Pistols were enormously influential, and many rock bands found some inspiration in their willingness to take on any authority. For a brief time, they played the role of the child who tells the emperor he has no clothes. As one band member says, “I question everything. I always have done.” Not a bad slogan for rock and roll, for adolescence, or even for everyone.

Parents should know that this movie includes very strong language, drug use (though a powerful anti-drug message), and explicit sexual references.

Families who see this movie should talk about the role of rebellion, the influence of the Sex Pistols, and who is closest today to the role they played. People who like this movie will also like Julien Temple’s “Absolute Beginners.”

The Fast and the Furious

posted by rkumar
D
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2001

I don’t ask for much from summer popcorn movies. Give me some car chases and explosions, some romance, and a nasty villain who meets a nastier end, and I’m happy. I had high hopes for “The Fast and the Furious” to be a classic of this genre, but it turned out to be a major disappointment, not a good bad movie-as-video-game but a bad bad movie-as-brain-numbing-waste-of-celluloid. In fact, it is a bad bad bad bad bad movie.

Paul Walker plays Brian O’Connor, a loner with a fancy racecar who wants to get into the hidden world of street racers, and if you don’t guess that his motivation is more than getting close to Mia, the pretty sister (Jordana Brewster) of the fastest driver of them all, then you have never seen “Point Break,” one of several much better movies that this movie steals from shamelessly. The street racers swoop down to take over a quarter mile stretch for races that last less than 10 seconds, then disperse before the police catch up with them.

Brian challenges Mia’s brother Dom (Vin Diesel) and loses both the race and his car to the jeers of the onlookers. But he rescues Dom from the police and sticks with him through an encounter with a rival gang. Soon, he is a member of Dom’s rag-tag “team,” a family of outcasts that includes brilliant but attention-defecit-mechanic Jesse (Chad Lindberg), brooding Vince (Matt Schulze), and tough girl Letty (Michelle Rodriguez of “Girlfight”). Races and chases in various locales and several product placement moments later, it turns out that neither Dom nor Brian has been telling the truth and that both will have to put what they care about most on the line before it is all over.

This is one of those movies that cannot even fake authenticity. It is not about what is cool or about what the people in the audience think is cool. It is about what people in Hollywood think that the people in the audience think is cool, and it is about as cool as the fake rock music they used to play in “Brady Bunch” episodes when Greg and Marcia went to school dances. There is a lot of posing and attitude, and people say fake-tough and fake-profound things like, “It’s not how you stand by your car — it’s how you race your car” and “It doesn’t matter whether you lose by an inch or a mile – winning’s winning.” Nearly every line is a cliché, spoken without any sense of irony, tribute, or transcendence. There is some flashy photography (but doesn’t it defeat the purpose to make a 10-second race last for a minute onscreen?) and a lot of blasting faux-hip rap music, very fine cars with a button on the dashboard like that thing in “Star Wars” that makes them go into hyperspeed, and sprays of automatic weapon bullets that manage to miss all the main characters. The last fifteen minutes is genuinely, deeply, infuriatingly stupid. Diesel and Rodriguez are talented and watchable, but this movie insists on interfering with our ability to enjoy them. There is more tension and excitement in the one 10-minute “chickie run” segment of “Rebel Without a Cause” than in any race in this movie.

Parents should know that the movie is as close to an R as it can be and remain a PG-13. It is very violent, with shoot-outs that leave one character dead and another seriously wounded. A character takes one risk that appears suicidal. Characters drink and smoke. Corona beer seems to be an especially obvious product placement, and giving someone a beer is a gesture of honor and acceptance. There is a same-sex kiss and some skanky behavior. A woman offers one of the racers a threesome if he wins, then insults him when he does not. A man tells his girlfriend, “You’re my trophy.” Women appear in scanty clothing, including a thong. There is a non-graphic but explicit sexual situation. Characters use very strong language, including the n-word and other racial slurs. We see some gross photographs of an injured man. Characters are in extreme peril, both in racing and in shoot-outs. Robbing and shooting are sympathetically portrayed, and Brian’s ultimate decision is a serious betrayal. And someone needs to get the message to Hollywood that making a couple of the female characters strong and smart does not mean that the rest of them can be sexist bimbos.

Families who see this movie should talk about the way that even outcasts create families, as where Dom presides over a barbecue dinner that is like a cover illustration from Tatooed Biker done by Norman Rockwell. They even say grace. They should also talk about the people who do not tell each other the truth, and those who make the decision to violate the law to make things easier for themselves.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Point Break.”

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